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Don St. John joins us on The SHAIR Podcast, the author of Healing the Wounds of Childhood. In this book, Don shares his personal story and discoveries about what our bodies, our minds and understanding of what it means to be a whole human being and what your relationships need in order to heal from the wounds, the traumas and the toxic stress of life.
He also takes us through his battle with addiction and his own journey of recovery. Dr. Don St John has spent over 45 years engaging the process of becoming whole, both personally and professionally, as well as in his own relationship.
Most of today’s social problems have the same roots—a lack of understanding of what it means to be a whole human being. What if violence, illness, addictions, suicides, toxic stress, depression, anxiety and relationship dysfunctions could be traced to the same source? The implications for education, childrearing and our comprehension of mental and physical health would be staggering.
What does it mean to be a “whole human being?” What is “wholeness?” There are four different dimensions we consider. All are separate and all are deeply interrelated. Each influences and is influenced by every other.
They are: Somatic Education, Psychological Growth, Relationship Enrichment and Spirituality.
Insufficient understanding or lack of support in any of these four dimensions constitutes a wound to the integrity of our organism. As we grow our appreciation and understanding of our dimensionality, recognize where we have been unsupported, suppressed or otherwise wounded, we have a map necessary to effectively continue our journey towards wholeness. There is no end to the opportunities and possibilities to grow into a fuller human being. We can heal into wholeness and well beyond “normal.”
If you’re looking for something more than just talking about your problems, and you know intuitively that your body is somehow related to what you would like to address, you may be an excellent candidate for what he does. He began his clinical training in 1967 and has been working since as a psychotherapist, relationship therapist and somatic therapist.
Over the past few years he has been helping people realize how many more resources they have available within themselves, to learn to connect to those resources and strengths, plus learn to connect well with those they love. The only way to have any real idea of what he does is to invest in one session, after which you will know if it is right for you.
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Don: Well, I thought my story was important to tell. My beginnings were rather horrible and I was on a trajectory leading to a very destructive life and early death. There was really no question about where I was headed. I was able to turn it around and turn it around dramatically. I feel like I’m not even the same organism that I was, say, 45 years ago. I’m 73 now, so it gives you a perspective.
Omar: Yeah. What wounds did you have to heal from yourself from childhood?
Don: Oh, okay. I would say, and this is a very common wound, in my case it was extreme but it’s not uncommon, and that is the very deep down feeling that there’s something very, very wrong with me. Now, that wound, in my case, the abuse was explicit. It was statements like, “You and that no good son of a bitch father of yours ruined my life. When are you ever going to do something right? You are ugly. If I catch you doing this I will kill you.” It was of that nature, but on a much more subtle level, if a child doesn’t get what he or she needs, and usually it’s a high dose of presence, somebody who’s there, somebody who can really be there, it feels bad. That feel bad gets translated as I am bad. That’s a huge wound because if I feel like I’m really bad, then it’s hard to open up and let you see me.
Don: You’re going to see how bad I am.
Omar: Right, right.
Don: I stay closed. I stay closed, you don’t see me. That exacerbates the wounds. You see, it’s a vicious cycle then. I think that’s one of the most pernicious wounds. It’s shame. It’s that feeling that somehow we’re deficient, somehow we’re defective of the tissues, the quality of the structure and the quality of the movement of the body, and the quality of the emotional, spiritual life.
Omar: Right, right.
Don: That’s the whole point right there. I think we’ve summarized it.
Omar: Beautiful. Can you just give us maybe one or two of the exercises that you talk about in the book?
Don: Oh, yes. I can. I can give you one. For example, take an area in your life, in one’s life, that’s not working. A typical one is relationships. Draw two columns. In one column put “What I believe to be true”. In the second column put “What I want to be true”.
Don: In the first column let it come to you. You know? What do I really believe? For example, do I really believe that somebody will stay with me if I get close to them? Okay, because a very common belief, if I get close to somebody they’ll leave. If I get close to somebody I’ll be suffocated. If I get close to somebody I’ll lose my freedom. Okay?
Don: Those kinds of beliefs, let them come to you. Engage it. Just let your subconscious mind begin to do some work with it. It’s hard to get to rationally often because these are programs in the internal human computer that have been embedded by the time we’re three, four, five years old. You start to bring those to the light, and then, okay, what belief would I prefer to have? Then comes the courageous part. You have to test those beliefs. You have to work to get close to somebody and sweat it. Sweat it out because everything in your system is telling you, “They’re going to leave if you get close. That’s what’s always happened ever since I was two years old,” or whatever, but you’re going to sweat. You test it. You open up. You tell the truth about it. You express the vulnerability that that brings forth. You work with it and that’s how you work with these limiting core beliefs. That takes courage and often support.
Omar: That’s great newcomer material because you come in so rigid, absolutely rigid. You’re beaten. You’re defeated. You really don’t have much hope. Taking suggestions …
Now, other than your book, Healing the Wounds of Childhood, is there a book that impacted you in your life that you would recommend?
Don: One that keeps coming to mind that you might not think about it in terms of recovery but it was very helpful when I read it many, many years ago, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Omar: Right, that was by …
Don: Stephen Covey.
Omar: Yes. Yes. Correct. That is a great book. If you could give our newcomers only one suggestion, or you could give them more than one, what would that be?
Don: One, have faith. Have faith. Trust. Two, don’t try to be normal. Try to be who you are meant to be. In other words, don’t compare yourself to any mythological standard of normality whether it’s established by the mental health profession or by the entertainment industry. Find out who you are and be that.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NEWCOMER
- Have faith.
- Don’t try to be normal.
Thanks again for your SHAIR, Dr. Don!
See you then!
Disclaimer – The opinions shared on this show reflect those of the individual speaker and not of any 12 step fellowship as a whole and though we discuss 12 step recovery and the impact it has had in our lives we do not promote or endorse any 12 step anonymous program.